It is with great joy and heartfelt emotion that Aman shares Bhutan’s exciting news. The sole remaining Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom will reopen its borders to international travel on 23 September 2022, enabling Amankora to once again offer unparalleled journeys of discovery through this mystical land in its five lodges. For over two years Bhutan has retreated into the mists of its Himalayan eyrie to ensure the wellbeing of its people. Now ready to emerge, like a gilded peak after the storm clouds have passed, the Kingdom will present an ever rarer and more awe-inspiring cultural safari.
Amankora, Bhutan – Dining, Punakha Lodge, Farmhouse Courtryard dining set-up
Honoured to be Bhutan’s first and most trusted international travel partner since the Kingdom opened to the outside world, Amankora has joined in every endeavour to uplift and rebuild during this unprecedented time, awaiting the moment each lodge could once again offer travellers a meaningful personal kora – a circular journey – across the country’s spectacular central and western valleys. Privileged to mark its entry to the Kingdom with the opening of Amankora Paro in 2004, Aman has almost two decades of unrivalled insight into and knowledge of Bhutan. As the Kingdom opens once more, there is none more soulfully connected to the Land of the Thunder Dragon to ensure the pilgrimage of a lifetime.
Amankora, Bhutan – Accommodation, Punakha Lodge, Suite Block Exterior
In a changed world, travellers to Bhutan will discover however, that there is much unchanged. Here, where everyday life is defined by the pursuit of peace and nature is as revered as happiness, the same cobalt skies, vibrant smiles and timeless sense of tranquility endures. And the welcome in Amankora’s gateway lodges – each a unique expression of its setting – is as warm as ever.
A New Beginning
Amankora’s lodges in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang, will welcome their first guests since March 2020 on 23 September 2022. This auspicious day has been chosen by the Kingdom with the same thoughtful consideration it has invested in renewing its focus on sustainability. Known as Blessed Rainy Day, it marks the end of the monsoon season and is a celebration of the rain – regarded as sanctifying and holy – that has cleansed the earth and humanity. With a symbolism resonating far beyond the borders of this mountain kingdom, this day will also signify a new dawn for Bhutan’s vision of a better future.
International guests visiting Bhutan will now each contribute a daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 200 to the Kingdom’s fund originally introduced in 1991 at USD 65, to help finance Bhutan’s Low Volume, High Value tourism concept. The first increase in 30 years, the new rate reflects the Kingdom’s determination to preserve its pristine natural beauty and wildlife, maintain its carbon-negative status and conserve its rich culture. Bhutan is home to hundreds of ancient sites, centuries-old monasteries, historic fortresses and entire communities untouched by modernity, and the revised SDF will ensure these timeless beacons of Himalayan heritage remain. The increase will also enhance two pillars of the Kingdom’s legendary Gross National Happiness index – the country’s universal free healthcare system (for citizens and visitors alike) and accessible, quality education.
The Ultimate Amankora Journey
Distilled over the course of almost 20 years, today the seven- to 13-day Amankora Journey offers guests the most comprehensive and soul-stirring experience of the Kingdom. Providing the opportunity to incorporate all five of Amankora’s lodges, it reveals not only Bhutan’s most beautiful and iconic sights, but also the spirit of its people and their culture. A bespoke adventure, tailored to personal interests and preferences, it draws deeply on Aman’s intuitive understanding of the country, offering the only way to seamlessly experience three to five different valleys in seven or more nights.
Guests can discover the cultural depth of the capital Thimphu, practice archery on the sandy banks of the Mo Chhu River and pause in awe as black-necked cranes soar above Gangtey’s medieval villages. Explore Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, one of the country’s most important wildlife sanctuaries, and taste the delights of fertile Bumthang Valley. The kora culminates in a flight back west at Paro’s clifftop Tiger’s Nest.
As well as all meals, picnics and in-house beverages, the seven-day Amankora Journey also includes transfers, daily excursions with a private car, driver and guide, all monument passes and road permits, and a 60-minute holistic massage per person. Those journeying for 10 or more nights also enjoy a traditional herb-infused hot stone bath at Amankora Gangtey from the comfort of a candle-lit potato shed, with dramatic views over the Phobjikha Valley. Large river stones are heated by woodfire and then deposited in the wooden bathtub, releasing minerals before guests immerse themselves in the healing water. The Ultimate Amankora Journey packs a lifetime worth of experiences into just 13 days and includes one complimentary night in addition to the domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro.
A Tiger’s Odyssey
As remote as Bhutan may feel, it is possible to experience this Himalayan paradise when time is short. Amankora’s three-night Tiger’s Odyssey journey is the perfect introduction to Bhutan, providing a fulfilling, all-round experience of its cultural and natural attractions.
Staying exclusively at Amankora Paro, guests can discover Paro Valley with its verdant rice paddies and idyllic farmhouses by bike, explore the dramatic ruins of the 17th-century Drukyel Dzong and one of the Kingdom’s oldest temples, Kyichu Lhakhang, wander through quaint Paro town sampling momos (local dumplings) and freshly brewed beer, and marvel at the historic treasures of the National Museum. Days start with open-air yoga, breathing in the fresh pine-scented air and savouring picnics and a farmhouse lunch prepared by a former cook of the royal family.
No trip to Bhutan is complete without visiting the famous Tiger’s Nest, for which this journey is named. Perched cliffside with astounding views, the temple complex was first built in 1692 around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where a revered Guru is said to have meditated in the 8th century. Perhaps best saved for the final day, guests can follow the hike and personalised tour with a barbecue lunch and a well-deserved spa treatment. The lodge’s spa overlooks the forest and herb garden, and features a glass-walled sauna, serene treatment rooms with hot stone baths, and a tranquil yoga and meditation room.
A six-night Cultural Sojourn revealing the Kingdom’s western valleys, this journey uncovers the beating heart of Bhutan with stays at Amankora Thimphu, Punakha and Paro. These valleys are breathtakingly unspoilt, with magnificent natural scenery providing the backdrop to an exhilarating dive into a rich cultural heritage, home as they are to almost half of the population.
Discover Bhutan’s colourful history and wealth of traditions while exploring the capital Thimphu with its textile museum, weaving centre, paper factory and astrology school. Don’t miss Tashichho Dzong at dusk or the hike to Cheri Goemba, a stunning temple and monastery where the Kingdom’s first monastic body was established. Over the Dochula Pass in Punakha, visit the intriguing Chimi Lhakhang Fertility Temple and stroll through the adjacent village with its fascinating folk art. Dedicate the next day to hiking to Khamsun Chorten with its awe-inspiring views, and to exploring the sacred halls and courtyards of Punakha Dzong. After crossing the longest chain link suspension bridge in the world, try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport. The final two days in Paro are spent exploring the town and countryside and climbing to the lofty Tiger’s Nest.
Return to the Kingdom
This five-night adventure is designed for those who’ve visited in the past and are eager to experience more of the Kingdom’s serenity beyond its western and central valleys. Beginning with a homecoming Thrisel Blessing and a rediscovery of Drukgyel Dzong at Amankora Paro, the journey continues on day two with a flight to Amankora Bumthang, the easternmost of Aman’s five lodges. From here, explore the eastern valleys of Trongsa, the birthplace of the royal Wangchuck dynasty; Tang, home to the Burning Lake and Ogyen Choling Palace Museum; and Chhume, where Bhutan’s current queen was born. Ruled by the power of the Raven Crown, this region is truly beguiling. On returning to Paro for your final night, discover the mysterious second Tiger’s Nest with its hidden treasure and Statue of Longevity in the tranquil setting of Dzongdrakha. Many more journeys will be needed before Bhutan has revealed all her secrets.
For more information, you can visit website: www.aman.com/resorts/amankora
Aman was founded in 1988 with the vision of building a collection of intimate retreats with the unassuming, warm hospitality of a gracious private home. The first, Amanpuri (place of peace), in Phuket, Thailand, introduced the concept and, since then, Aman has grown to encompass 34 exquisitely serene hotels and resorts in 20 destinations across the world, with a further nine projects in the pipeline. In such spectacular settings, Aman has honed its offering with its transformative influence on mind, body and spirit through harmoniously designed environments transporting guests out of their everyday lives. Twelve properties also offer private branded Residences: sanctuaries that go beyond commonplace notions of luxury allowing a select few to make the Aman way of life a permanent reality.
In recent years, Aman has grown to offer its coveted lifestyle beyond the parameters of its havens. In 2018, the introduction of Aman Skincare continued the brand’s holistic influence, offering beautiful, scented formulas using powerful all-natural ingredients and inspired by Aman Spas. The introduction of Sva – a range of supplements designed to help maintain optimum health – and Aman Fine Fragrance in 2020 continued this journey, bringing Aman into the comfort of home. This sentiment was echoed in 2021, with the arrival of a new retail collection, The Essentials by Aman, comprising timeless ready-to-wear pieces that answer the needs of every Aman guest.
With innovation a cornerstone of the brand’s philosophy, in 2020 Aman welcomed a new hotel brand, Janu – meaning ‘soul‘ in Sanskrit. Janu offers a unique take on hospitality where genuine human interaction, playful expression and social wellness are at the core of the experience. Janu aims to bring balance to the head and heart and rekindle the soul. Three forthcoming Janu hotels are already under construction: Tokyo; AlUla in Saudi Arabia and Montenegro.
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